Hydrogen safety for the industry - hydrogen-safety-for-the-industry-ecology-energy-solution-16-6-DL-30110-2020_1260580606.jpg

Hydrogen safety for the industry

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Hydrogen safety – a new energy source with special risks

Hydrogen (H2) is one of the most important sources of clean energy. In a move towards a more sustainable future, the number of hydrogen production and distribution facilities is expanding. With decades of experience in the process industry, Dräger is the ideal partner for customers and stakeholders – especially new players on the market – in assessing risks and providing comprehensive consultancy and hydrogen safety solutions. Dräger offers the first point of contact for hydrogen safety issues with thorough knowledge of the hazards of working with hydrogen.

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How to meet hydrogen safety challenges

Hydrogen itself is not toxic, but it poses special risks to safety on plants and for the infrastructure which produce, distribute or use it. Read about the safety challenges and how Dräger can support the hydrogen economy with comprehensive risk analysis, project planning, selection and installation of the right safety solutions and services in all phases of the process.

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Hydrogen explosions and other major risks

The 7 hydrogen safety challenges

Hydrogen does not impose major new risks compared to other gases. The trouble spots occur where people are involved in tasks along the hydrogen value chain, from production to use. Even though specific challenges differ between applications, plant safety is common to all. Here are some of the risk factors which Drager explores in projects with customers:

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Explosion

Unlike actual explosives, pure hydrogen cannot explode. The risk comes when it hits the air. For hydrogen to cause an explosion, oxygen needs to be present. But if hydrogen is allowed to escape, even a static spark from clothing would be enough to set off an explosion.

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Invisible flame

Hydrogen burns with a very pale flame that is invisible in daylight. Because it emits little of the infrared radiation that humans perceive as heat, it cannot be sensed as heat. A hydrogen flame does however emit substantial ultraviolet radiation. Special UV detectors are therefore required to alert to the presence of hydrogen flames.

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Leaks

Owing to its small molecules and low viscosity, hydrogen can leak from pipelines and other structures more easily than denser gases. In fact, when it leaks from a pipe at sufficiently high pressure, hydrogen can even self-ignite. As well as pipelines engineered to hydrogen-ready specifications, regular inspection is imperative to detect leak points at joints and along pipelines. Fixed leak detectors add another layer of safety.

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Permeation

Hydrogen can easily permeate materials and in some cases embrittle them. For this reason, stainless steel and composite materials are typically used for storage tanks.

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CO alarms

Carbon monoxide (CO) sensors are cross-sensitive to hydrogen. If used near possible hydrogen exposure, CO sensors should be compensated for hydrogen so that cross-sensitivity and false alarms are reduced to a minimum.

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Gas pockets

Like ammonia and methane, hydrogen is less dense than air and forms gas pockets below indoor ceilings when leaking. The presence of hydrogen will not be perceived at ground level, even when dangerous amounts are accumulating beneath the ceiling. When hydrogen and methane are mixed, hydrogen can form gas pockets above methane. Hydrogen detectors are therefore typically placed at the top, with methane detectors below that level.

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Odourless and colourless

Hydrogen has no smell and no colour, so is undetectable for humans. With methane, this issue is mitigated by adding odorants, and research is in progress to determine whether this will also be possible with hydrogen. Gas and leak detectors are essential.

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Hydrogen explosion

The presence of hydrogen increases risks to safety have to be addressed with adequate measures. Due to its special properties, hydrogen sensors need to be selected to deal with hydrogen safety challenges, particularly for one major threat: the risk of hydrogen explosions.

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Areas of application for hydrogen

Hydrogen production

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In a global shift towards carbon-neutral renewable energy sources, demand for more sustainably sourced hydrogen is increasing. Wind and solar farms have the option to produce this “green” hydrogen, but this presents new major safety hazards on their sites, due to the flammability and explosive properties of H2. Especially at the start of production, hydrogen is highly pressurised and highly flammable. The flame itself is virtually invisible, which means plants require excellent safeguards against hydrogen explosions.

Hydrogen distribution and storage

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The production of hydrogen in industrial quantities requires efficient – and safe – methods and facilities for transportation, distribution and storage before it reaches suppliers and consumers. Existing infrastructure of gas networks and pipelines can often be used to transport hydrogen to its relevant markets, but detection, monitoring and maintenance must be specially adapted for the risk of leaks. Most storages facilities, such as tanks and valves, are generally safe, but on-site activity by people and machinery increases safety hazards.

Hydrogen usage

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Goals for reducing emissions from fossil fuels and their detrimental impact on the environment has increased the demand for cleaner energies like hydrogen via fuel cell production. Some uses include fuel cell electric vehicles for long-distance road, rail and maritime transportation. Fuel stations, repair shops and garage facilities have expanded their core business to include hydrogen to cater for this new consumption sector. This means they also have to conform to new safety measures and accumulate relevant essential safety experience.

Hydrogen safety: Solutions for detection, monitoring and protection

Fixed Gas Detection Systems

For safe production, storage and distribution of hydrogen, various detection technologies must be employed to build efficient levels of protection as a comprehensive safety solution. Hydrogen sensor devices provide instant alerts in case of hazardous leaks or risks of combustion.

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Dräger PEX 3000

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Dräger PointGard 2200

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Dräger Flame 2700 (Multi-IR)

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Dräger Polytron® 8900 UGLD

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Dräger Polytron® 6100 EC WL

Hydrogen safety: Solutions for detection, monitoring and protection

Mobile Gas Detection Devices

Leak detection and personal air monitoring while working in hydrogen production, storage and transportation environments are the main applications for portable gas detectors. In addition, clearance measurement must be carried out prior to maintenance work using mobile detection and monitoring devices with hydrogen sensors.

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Dräger Pac® 8500

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Dräger X-am® 5600

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Dräger X-am® 8000

Personal Protective Equipment

Occupational health and safety equipment is essential to protect employees during maintenance works on hydrogen production plants. Escape respiratory devices must be available in case of emergencies.

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Dräger X-plore® 3300/3500

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Dräger PAS® Colt

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Filtering Escape Devices - Dräger product finder

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Our organization is a member of the Center for Hydrogen Safety, which is a global nonprofit resource that supports and promotes the safe handling and use of hydrogen across industrial and consumer applications in the energy transition. For more information visit the Center for Hydrogen Safety website.

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Safety solutions for hydrogen detection

The special safety challenges of hydrogen management require customised hydrogen detection and protective measures. As expert in gas detection technology, Dräger provides tried and tested solutions like hydrogen sensors for diverse customer applications in meeting specific hydrogen safety requirements. A wide selection of mobile and fixed gas detection devices and systems cover all scenarios and requirements for optimal hydrogen safety.

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Individual solutions: gas detection systems designed for you

Every industrial plant is different. From our extensive experience, we know that fixed fire and gas detection systems are only as effective as the planning which goes in to them. To that end, we work in close collaboration with our customers to provide guidance through the complete process – from consultation through design, realisation and implementation. So, you can achieve the best possible solution for your specific needs.

Fixed Gas Detection Solutions

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Дрегер Сейфти България ЕООД

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+359 2963 4366

Dräger Slovenija d.o.o.

Nadgoriška cesta 19
12 31 Ljubljana-Črnuče

+386 1 561 2263